Rental support from the likes of Netflix and one-cable connectivity via HDMI only
add to the Blu-ray argument, yet today DVD-Video still enjoys 91 percent market penetration in the United States. Even with the widespread popularity of Sony's Playstation 3 and cheaper and faster-loading Blu-ray players, the Blu-ray format is working towards 20 percent market penetration, while the next format is starting to poke its head out from the sand. Downloaded files and ready-to-watch HD content are already on the scene, yet they currently don't offer anywhere near the performance that Blu-ray does. The home theater servers needed for the consumer to harness and manage these files are not as consumer-friendly as one would like, yet the big impediment to the rise of downloads is the lackluster speeds of today's Internet. The question today is whether consumers will be wooed to the convenience of downloads to their phones and computers at lower resolutions, as they were by Apple's iPod and iTunes, sacrificing of higher-resolution and better-sounding audio and video on Blu-ray.�
The answer is likely to be determined by how quickly content providers can bridge the gap between the performance of a Blu-ray disc and an HD download. If your cable company can provide you 2000 top movies in 1080p video and in 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound that stream to your DVR just like downloading a QuickTime video on your computer today, Blu-ray is doomed. Realistically, this kind of bandwidth is coming someday, but it won't be here for most Americans any time soon. The solution for most home theater enthusiasts
is capable Blu-ray players costing as little as $200 and Blu-ray discs costing about as much as a DVD-Video disc and/or low-cost Blu-ray disc rentals. Blu-ray is a meaningful and powerful format in 2009 and will likely remain so for at least five years into the future.�
With very slick servers like Apple TV and DVRs and media servers able to download and manage all sorts of audio and video files, the temptation to experiment with the world of HD downloads will likely be too hard to resist, even if the bandwidth isn't where it needs to be to make media servers meet the full potential of our display devices. At the end of the day and in the middle of a deep economic recession, an enthusiast can have the best of both media formats for under $1,000 total investment. I'll never forget watching my Dad pop for a $1,200 VHS machine in 1979, plus a number of VHS movies at over $100 a title. Adjusted for inflation, the kind of HD content that you can have driving your home theater system today is not just eye and ear candy for your enjoyment - it's a stone cold bargain.